Anyone looking for a storybook ending to one of the most celebrated active NFL careers in the league had to think it was coming. Peyton Manning, buoyed by a dominant defense, had finally returned to the winner’s platform in a Super Bowl at 39 years of age, the oldest starting quarterback in all 50 Super Bowls. All that would be necessary would be two simple words: “I’m retiring.”
Sorry, storybook fans. Manning couldn’t quite say it — not even after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell all but announced it moments before Manning took the microphone on stage:
It certainly sounds as though Manning’s planning to wrap things up:
Although Manning had told New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick after the AFC title game that this might be his “last rodeo,” Manning had stressed that he would do what he always does in the offseason. The next step for him will be a physical next month, something he always goes through in March. He’ll see neurologists and determine whether to try to play again at the age of 40 and after multiple procedures on his neck.
On Saturday night, Manning was one of several players who spoke up in what a Broncos executive described as a “very emotional” team meeting, but he wouldn’t say what was discussed there, either, citing advice from his former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy.
“‘Don’t make an emotional decision,’” he told CBS’s Jim Nantz. “This has been emotional week, an emotional night.”
So why no big reveal last night? Jerome Bettis made his announcement after the Pittsburgh Steelers won a Super Bowl in Bettis’ home town, giving both The Bus and Detroit their storybook ending. Perhaps Manning didn’t want to distract from his teammates’ accomplishment last night, or maybe he just wants this to be a more private decision. Given the way he played in the last couple of games after finally getting healthy again, though, he might want to give it another shot in 2016 — especially with this defense. They played a monster game against what had appeared to be an unstoppable force with Cam Newton and the Panther’s offense. It was an exciting defensive battle right down to the turnover with three minutes left in the game. What quarterback wouldn’t like to be the beneficiary of that kind of lights-out defense?
All that being said, Manning has nothing left to prove, and a life to lead outside of football. It’s time to make that transition before the injuries become too cumulative to enjoy retirement. What do you think? Take the poll:
Update: I will keep the poll open until 5 pm or so, then post the results later tonight.